Making Writing Letters Sexy Again, and Giving Books Away for Free in The Process

During my early years in college, some of the most special moments came during my twice-weekly or so trip to the mail room in the basement of my residence. Luigi the mailman would sift through the mail, retrieve the pieces with my address, and pass them to me. Occasionally, about once a month or so, the bundle would contain a letter from my mother.

I enjoyed these so much. They were written on these prepaid light blue paper things that were designed to be folded and stuck into the shape of an enevelope and which if opened correctly would unfold as a single sheet. My mother, living overseas, would write to me about what was happening in the family, what she was up to in general, and some of her private thoughts. And even though the news was often weeks late by the time I received the letter, the insights they gave felt fresh and deep. As much as I loved reading the information in the letters, I loved the tactile nature of the letters themselves. I loved handling them. Opening them while anticipating the contents inside. Examining a letter itself to see what the stamp looked like and if I could, via the post office marks, trace the path it took to get to me. I even loved storing them away. I still have each one.

The letters have stopped coming. I‘ve asked why and the reason is the same that’s stopped many of us from writing that way — it’s become more convenient to simply send a text or an email. When my mother and I write it’s primarly via WhatsApp now. And it’s good, and it works. I don’t have to wait for weeks, we communicate in seconds. We write more now to each other than we did when she sent letters. We have a family chat too where dad, mom, and all my siblings (who all live far away from where I do) and I share jokes, important information, or just say hi. Just before I began writing this I read a message from dad informing all of us that our elementary school principal had passed away. It’s great to be able to be thousands of kilometres away and to quickly receive important news like this. As easily as one might with a phone call, but without having to be in a quiet space at the right time. I can look at my phone, read a message, know what’s up, respond when appropriate, and continue with my day. It’s great.

But I sure miss those letters.

In the years that have followed since college I have, like most other people I know, continued to embrace technology more and more completely. I’ve been fairly close to the deep end of it too - I’ve been a social media manager, built websites, worked to help local video game companies grow, managed webstores… you get the gist. What I’m saying is I’ve been on team tech. And I’ve been on it for a long time.

But something is missing.

I believe that in the current rush towards more technology we are losing touch with some of the good things in life that operate with less technology. The joy of giving and receiving written correspondence is one of those things. It’s really nice to receive something handwritten. I think it’s equally nice to give something handwritten. It’s fun. And there’s a level of intimacy that the output of our phones and computers can’t match.

I’m building a project to make it fun and easy to write to anyone you want to. It’s called ‘Posuto’, which is a Japanese word for mailbox. The hypothesis behind it is that a major reason we don’t write anymore is because it’s inconvenient but if it becomes convenient we’ll write more because we enjoy it. Normally to send anyone a note you need to find paper and an envelope or a postcard, then you need to find postage, and then you need to find a mailbox or post office to put it into. This takes time and more effort than most of us are willing to put out on any given day. But what if the mail was where you were? I think it would be easier and you’d probably do it more.

I’m going to put a series of postcards featuring local and general art into cafes and make it possible for people to purchase them there along with their coffee and then after completion mail those postcards onsite in a locked Posuto mailbox. The price will include the postcard and postage and so once you’ve bought it you’ll just have to fill it out for whomever you want to send it to with their address and your message and then put it into the box. Each day we’ll go around, collect all the postards and put them into the general circulation at the post office. It’s a simple idea and won’t appeal to everyone but it’s something I think some people would appreciate. I’d like to ultimately extend the idea to anywhere people gather and can transact. Most importantly, I‘m going to translate a sum from each sale into a book for an underprivileged child, ideally through an established book focused charity. Books helped make me the person I am. They continue to help me to evolve and I believe in their power to transform lives, especially those of people with few means.

What do you think? Is there a better way to do this? How can I use technology to make this non-tech idea work better? Does this excite anyone out there? Suggestions? What would you pay for this? I’m looking for feedback on the idea and help to execute it. If you’re in the Montreal area in particular, drop me a line. Otherwise let me know what you think in the comments, I’d really appreciate it. You can also get me at chris@posuto.org.

Thanks,

Chris

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